Dr. Ardyce Yik, a Canadian-licensed naturopathic physician helping people attain optimal health naturally in Hong Kong, China. Here, you will find a wealth of information on health, wellness and disease. Dedicated to helping people achieve and maintain optimal health, naturally.
Researchers say that 10% of the general population have thyroid disorders. If you’re a woman over the age of 35, take heed- Experts estimate that 1 in 3 women over 35 develop thyroid illness at one point in their lifetime. The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, produces thyroid hormones which regulate your body’s temperature, metabolism, and heartbeat. Things can start to go wrong when your thyroid is under- or over-active.
What causes your thyroid to go out of balance? A combination of genetics, an autoimmune attack, stress, nutritional deficiencies, pregnancy or environmental toxins could be the culprit. Here are 10 signs that point to a thyroid problem:
Fatigue. Feeling tired all the time and having no energy are strongly associated with hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid is underactive. A common complaint in patients with hypothyroidism is that they feel exhausted even after a full night’s sleep. They just want to sleep all the time, and they feel lethargic during the day.
Hair loss, dry hair. Dry, brittle hair that breaks easily or falls out can be a sign of hypothyroidism. Too little thyroid hormone disrupts your hair growth cycle, putting too many follicles into “resting” mode which results in hair loss or thinning (in some cases, it can also affect your eyebrows). An overactive thyroid can cause hair thinning, usually just on the head.
Menstruation issues and fertility problems. There is a link between irregular menstrual cycles and thyroid problems. Not only that, but if you experience difficulty getting pregnant, you may want to get your thyroid checked. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can interfere with ovulation and cause infertility. Click here to learn more about how hypothyroidism affects your fertility.
Heart flutters or palpitations. You may feel your heart fluttering or beating too hard. You may notice these strong “pulsation” feelings in your chest or in the neck area. Heart flutters or palpitations can be a sign of hyperthyroidism, when the thyroid gland is making too much thyroid hormone.
Anxiety and “feeling wired” are also associated with hyperthyroidism. Your metabolism and whole body may spin into overdrive, and you feel like you just can’t relax.
Weight gain or loss. People with hypothyroidism may eat very little and exercise a lot, but still gain weight. On the other hand, unexplained weight loss could indicate a thyroid problem, or something else. If you haven’t changed your caloric intake, but you are either gaining weight or losing weight, seek a doctor to get your thyroid checked.
Your brain is fuzzy/ isn’t sharp. People with hypothyroidism may forget things and experience general brain fog, while people with hyperthyroidism find it difficult to concentrate.
Bowel movement changes. An underactive thyroid often leads to constipation while an overactive one can cause diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements. If your bowel movements have changed, check your thyroid function.
High cholesterol. Elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can be caused by hypothyroidism. If you have high LDL cholesterol levels that haven’t responded to diet, exercise, or medication you should get your thyroid tested. Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to heart problems such as an enlarged heart or heart failure.
Inability to tolerate cold temperatures or sweating profusely. Feeling cold (when others are not) is associated with an underactive thyroid while feeling too warm or sweating profusely could be a sign of an overactive thyroid.
Other symptoms of thyroid imbalance include low libido, depression, high blood pressure, a lump in the throat/ neck or difficulty swallowing, dry skin, carpal tunnel syndrome or painful extremities.
If you suspect that your thyroid isn’t working properly, get your thyroid hormones tested. Autoimmune antibodies testing and a neck ultrasound may also be necessary. In 2003, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists narrowed the TSH range for acceptable thyroid function from 0.5-5.0mIU/L to 0.3-3.04mIU/L. However, in Hong Kong, Dr. Yik has found that many patients with borderline levels aren’t getting the necessary treatment. It’s important to find a doctor who listens to your symptoms and treats the whole person, not one who just looks at lab tests.
Travelling anytime soon? With summer around the corner, you may be excitedly planning a summer trip or two. Here is a list of the dirtiest places or things you’ll encounter while travelling- be prepared and avoid getting sick!
Hotel Remotes. Studies conducted by microbiologists have found that remote controls have some of the highest levels of bacterial contamination in hotel rooms. Hotel housekeepers rarely clean the TV remote. Cover the remote or wipe it down with alcohol wipes before using it.
Hotel Bedspreads. The heavy bedspread on top of the hotel bed may not have been washed in a while! Most hotels change the sheets between guests but not the top comforter. To avoid the germs left behind by past guests, remove the top layer of bedding and sleep only with the washed sheets and blankets.
Hotel Light Switches. Light switches are used by everyone who enters a hotel room, but never cleaned. A recent study found that the main light switch was the dirtiest surface in the hotel rooms tested, and often contained high levels of fecal bacteria.
Water Fountains. Various studies have found that public fountains may have more bacteria than public toilets. One study by the National Sanitation Foundation in the USA found that the dirtiest spots in public schools are water fountains.
Airplane Bathrooms. A breeding ground for germs, airplane bathrooms are so small that flushing the toilet sprays bacteria onto almost every surface in the bathroom. You may want to wash your hands and use a paper towel to open the bathroom door.
Airplane Seat Pockets. A place where passengers put used tissues, soiled diapers and food waste, airplane seat pockets are another breeding ground for germs.
Airplane Tray Tables. These tray tables don’t get sanitised properly between every trip. Bring sanitising wipes and wipe the table down before using it.
Pillows and Blankets. If not sealed in plastic, the blankets and pillows are probably being reused from previous flights. What if the flyer before you was sick or drooling over the pillow? Better to bring your own travel blankets and pillows.
Cruise Ship Handrails (and public handrails in general). Cruise ships are well known germ incubators. The handrails you use to get on and off the ship are touched by thousands of other passengers every day, and germs can live on them for hours. Be sure to wash or sanitise your hands after using them.
Remember to wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitiser or alcohol wipes. Click here to find out how to strengthen your immune system to avoid getting sick. Always getting sick? Dr. Ardyce Yik ND helps people support their immune system and stay healthy.
Healthful foods make you feel great and give you energy, improving your health and boosting your mood. A healthful diet generally includes a variety of fruits and vegetables of many colors, whole grains, good fats, and lean protein. Below are the top foods considered to be the most healthy (in no particular order), according to sources across the United States and Western Europe. How many of these foods do you eat?
Almonds. Almonds are rich in nutrients, including vitamin E, manganese, iron, calcium, magnesium and riboflavin. It contains more fibre than any other tree nut, an
d helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Walnuts. A great source of omega-3 fats, walnuts also provide almost twice as many antioxidant polyphenols as almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias and pecans. Walnuts also contain iron, selenium, calcium, zinc, vitamin E and some B vitamins.
Brazil nuts. These nuts are rich in protein and are excellent sources of thiamine, vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc. They contain one of the highest amounts of selenium in any food. Selenium is a key nutrient for maintaining thyroid health.
Lentils. A staple in many parts of the world including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka, lentils are a good source of B vitamins, iron and potassium. Not only do they provide protein, but they’re also rich in fibre and phytochemicals which provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.
Oatmeal. Oats are rich in complex carbohydrates and water-soluble fibre, which slows down digestion and stabilizes blood glucose levels. Oatmeal is rich in B vitamins, folate and potassium. Choose the coarse or steel-cut oats which contain more fibre than instant varieties.
Broccoli. This dark green vegetable is rich in fibre, calcium, potassium, folateand phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are compounds that reduce the risk of developing cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Broccoli also contains vitamin C, beta-carotene and sulforaphane, a sulphur-rich compound that has anti-aging and anti-cancer benefits.
Kale. This dark leafy green vegetable is one of the most nutrient-dense foods. Just like broccoli, it contains loads of vitamins and minerals- including beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K- as well as phytonutrients and sulforaphane.
Blueberries. These berries are rich in fibre, antioxidants and phytonutrients.A study carried out at Harvard Medical School found that older adults who eat plenty of blueberries (and strawberries) are less likely to suffer from cognitive decline compared with other people of their age who do not. The anthocyanins found in blueberries can also help reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
Avocados. Rich in healthy fats, B vitamins, vitamin K, and vitamin E and fibre, avocados can help lower blood cholesterol levels. Researchers from Ohio State University found that nutrients taken from avocados were able to stop oral cancer cells, and even destroy some of the pre-cancerous cells.
Sweet potatoes. This fibre-rich vegetable is rich in beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and antioxidants. Studies have found that antioxidants in purple sweet potatoes promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria, including certain Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species.
Top healthy protein sources include deep water oily fish, organic chicken and organic, omega-3 eggs.
There are many other healthful foods not mentioned in this article. Remember, the key is to eat a variety of natural, unprocessed, whole foods. Prepare more of your own meals, avoid unhealthy/ processed foods and keep hydrated with water.
Have you heard of the Ketogenic (or Keto) Diet? Established in the 1920s when doctors used it as a therapy to treat epilepsy patients, the Keto Diet has become one of the most popular weight loss diets in recent years. So, what exactly is the Keto Diet and is it safe for everyone?
What is the Keto Diet?
The Keto Diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet which severely restricts carbohydrates, moderately restricts protein and greatly increases fat intake. This type of diet switches the body’s main energy source through a process known as ketosis. During ketosis, the liver produces ketones from fat and these ketones serve as fuel for the body. Instead of using glucose (from carbs) for energy, the body switches to burning fat. People on the Keto Diet often experience rapid weight loss at first, and as the body adjusts, weight loss will continue at a steady pace.
Is the Keto Diet safe for everyone?
Everyone’s dietary needs are different. There is no “one diet fits all”, and any diet, if not done properly, can potentially be harmful to one’s health. Here are some important points to note if you’re considering the Keto Diet:
A strict Keto Diet is not recommended for women who are breastfeeding. Though rare, there have been cases where new mothers have nearly died on a low-carb diet while breastfeeding due to a condition called ketoacidosis. While breastfeeding, you lose sugar through the milk, and not eating enough carbohydrates in this situation can possibly lead to ketoacidosis, which can be life-threatening. If you’re breastfeeding, a moderate carb intake of at least 50 to 75g of carbohydrates should be consumed daily. A low-carb diet may also decrease milk supply. Are you pregnant? Talk to your ob/gyn before starting the Keto Diet.
Although eliminating sugars and processed carbohydrates can improve your gut health, a low-carb diet can affect your gut microbiome negatively (not to mention cause constipation) if you don’t eat enough fiber. The more we learn about gut health and the microbiome, the more we realise that gut health is key to overall health. It has a significant impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. On the Keto Diet, remember to load up on leafy greens, nuts, asparagus, avocados and other fiber-rich foods.
When you’re on the Keto Diet, be aware of the nutrient content of the foods you consume. Foods such as butter, coconut or bacon, which are heavily consumed on a ketogenic diet, are very high in fat. However, compared to the number of calories they provide, these foods are very low in nutrients. Instead, choose nutrient-dense foods such as avocados, cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), fatty fish, grass-fed beef, omega-3 eggs, cheese, Greek yogurt, nuts and seeds.
Can children go on the Keto Diet? If your child is overweight, suffers from seizures and severe epilepsy syndrome, s/he may benefit from the Keto Diet (which was originally used to treat children with epilepsy). But, how about for a healthy child? Dr. Yik always reminds parents that nutrient needs for children are higher than for adults. Restrictive diets of any kind aren’t wise unless medically indicated. Children need a wide variety of different nutrients from nutrient-dense foods to grow, develop and stay healthy. Carbohydrates provide not only the energy kids need but also key nutrients for growth and development. These include foods like vegetables, whole grains and fruits. Fiber, a type of carbohydrate, not only helps children feel satiated and keep blood sugar levels steady but also prevent constipation as well as changes in the gut microbiome.Lastly, as parents, be aware of the message you send to your children when you go on fad diets. Are you weight-obsessed? What message are you sending your child about body image? Are you modelling unhealthy food behaviours? Remember, as a parent, your eating habits will affect your child’s relationship to food later in life. If you are not sure whether or not your child will benefit from a Keto Diet or if you want nutritional guidance for your child, talk to your child’s paediatrician, nutrition or healthcare practitioner. For nutritional therapy and dietary advice for children, Dr. Yik offers the “Boost Your Child’s Health” program.
Do you drink a glass of wine a few times a week? New research shows that drinking a bottle of wine a week is the same as smoking 5 to 10 cigarettes when it comes to raising the risk of getting cancer.
For women, drinking one bottle of wine each week increased the absolute lifetime risk of cancer to the same level as smoking 10 cigarettes a week, driven largely by a higher risk of breast cancer. For men, drinking a bottle of wine each week increased the absolute lifetime risk of cancer equal to smoking 5 cigarettes.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists the consumption of alcohol as a known human carcinogen. It is linked to various cancers including breast, colon, esophageal, and liver cancer. But often times, the risks of alcohol consumption are less obvious and come as a surprise to the public.
“These findings can help communicate that moderate levels of drinking are an important public health risk,” concluded lead author of the study Theresa Hydes, PhD, a hepatology clinical fellow at the University Hospital Southampton, England.
Do you have a strong, often uncontrollable, desire to drink? Or feel an urge to drink when feeling stressed and anxious? Are you feeling more irritable/ tired while becoming intoxicated more frequently? If so, you may have a drinking problem. Dr. Ardyce Yik has seen her share of patients struggling with alcoholism- teenagers, professionals, fathers, mothers… Yes, even mothers! Healthcare professionals and addiction counsellors are seeing an increase in mothers seeking help for alcohol problems. This may be due to the current mommy drinking culture, which is vehemently reinforced by social media and advertising. Seek a trusted doctor if you suspect you have a drinking problem.
Click here to read more about the detrimental effects of alcohol consumption (i.e. How much alcohol is too much?).
The 2019 Dirty Dozen List is out! Here is the list of foods that contain the most pesticide residues:
The list is released each year by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization which uses more than 40,000 produce samples tested by the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
WHAT’S SO BAD ABOUT PESTICIDES?
Pesticide exposure has been linked to childhood cancer, brain disorders such as ADHD/ autism/ dyslexia, and infertility. The pesticide industry and chemical agriculture insist that pesticides on produce are nothing to worry about, but doctors and scientists strongly disagree.
Dr. Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard and lead author of a 2014 study linking synthetic chemicals and brain disorders, is concerned because even ordinary (undiagnosed) children are often affected. “The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis… They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes.”
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Here are some practical tips to help you make smart choices for you and your family:
For produce heavily laden with pesticide residues (see the Dirty Dozen list above), buy organic. Reduce pesticide exposure, especially in children and if you are trying to conceive. “Even low levels of pesticide exposure can be harmful to infants, babies and young children, so when possible, parents and caregivers should take steps to lower children’s exposures to pesticides while still feeding them diets rich in healthy fruits and vegetables,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.
If buying fully organic is not in your budget, familiarize yourself with the Clean 15 list. Foods on this list are least likely to contain pesticide residues, so you can buy conventional produce without worrying about excessive pesticide exposure. The Clean 15: avocado, corn, pineapple, frozen sweet peas, onion, papaya, eggplant, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, cauliflower, cantaloupe, broccoli, mushrooms, honeydew melon.
Plain water will not wash away pesticide residues on produce. Try soaking fruits and vegetables in a plain white vinegar solution (4 parts water + 1 part vinegar) for 15 to 30 minutes. You may scrub produce with skin (e.g. apples) with a scrubby brush after they are done soaking. Rinse thoroughly before consuming. A salt water soak (1 tsp salt + 2 to 3 cups of water) can also be used to reduce chemical residues on produce. But note that no washing method is 100% effective for removing all pesticide residues.
Fruits and vegetables are an important part of our diet. They contain numerous vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals that keep us healthy. A diet high in fruits and vegetables can help protect against cancer, diabetes, heart disease and premature death. But be aware of produce which are heavily contaminated with pesticides. Start making smart consumer choices today.
Planning for a successful pregnancy? Many couples are encouraged, after a few months of trying without success, to consider assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as IUI or IVF. Though these fertility procedures help bring the sperm and egg (closer) together, they are rather costly and often stressful- not to mention not always successful. In fact, the success rate for IVF procedures is only 40% at best, for those 35 and under.
Various factors affect your ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term. A successful embryo transfer doesn’t necessarily translate into a successful pregnancy. Whether you are trying to conceive naturally or attempting the IVF route, the following are important things to consider:
Are you experiencing miscarriages? There may be underlying conditions or reasons affecting your ability to carry a baby to term. For example, people with a MTHFR gene defect may be prone to recurrent miscarriages. Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR for short) is an enzyme that is responsible for the conversion of folic acid to its active form folate. If you have a MTHFR gene mutation, your body cannot break down folic acid into folate, and studies show that people with a MTHFR gene mutation are more susceptible to recurrent miscarriages, pre-eclampsia and a baby born with spina bifida. Keep in mind that while recurrent miscarriages are often multi-factorial, Dr. Yik usually tests her patients for MTHFR mutation when frequent pregnancy loss is unexplained so that proper treatment can be given to those with a MTHFR gene defect. Other reasons for recurrent miscarriages include nutrient deficiencies, poor egg quality, immune responses and thyroid hormone imbalances.
Dr. Yik plays a supportive role in helping each of her patients improve egg quality and uterine lining, promote pelvic circulation and optimise overall health. She has helped women doing IVF successfully conceive (these women are often those who have tried IVF on its own without success). There have even been cases where patients, after adopting a certain dietary and lifestyle regimen, fall pregnant before their scheduled IVF procedure. What about age, you ask? Yes, it’s true that fertility decreases as you age. But did you know that your biological age may be different from your chronological age? The good news is, you can lower your biological age through lifestyle (and naturopathic medicine under the direction of a trained practitioner). There are ways to prevent aging and in some cases, even reverse it.
What you consume has a direct impact on your fertility! According to a study carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health, women who ate the highest amounts of monounsaturated fat had triple the chance of IVF success. These women were 3.4 times more likely to have a child after IVF. In contrast, women who ate mostly saturated fat, found in butter and red meat, produced fewer good quality eggs for use in fertility treatment. Another study looked at 4000 Danish women and found that women who drink five or more cups of coffee a day actually halve their chance of getting pregnant via IVF. Furthermore, a 2018 study from Human Reproduction concluded that women who consumed a Mediterranean diet had significantly higher success rates of IVF compared to other women. These studies confirm that what we eat can either boost our fertility or curb it. Dr. Yik uses dietary guidelines, medicinal herbs and nutraceuticals to help the body be in optimal state to improve the chances of a successful pregnancy.
Could it be the toxins? A detox (for your body, for your liver) can be a great way to remove toxins which have accumulated in your body all these years. A study done in Hong Kong on 150 infertile couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) versus 20 fertile couples found that the infertile couples had significantly higher blood mercury then the fertile group. Over 1/3 of infertile men had abnormally high mercury and about 1/4 of the infertile females had high mercury levels. High levels of PCBs have also been linked to IVF failure. A detox and liver cleanse (scheduled 3 to 6 months prior to conception) can help to remove toxins, rebalance hormones and improve reproductive health.
Remember, numerous factors affect your ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term. Find a fertility doctor who looks beyond IUI or IVF to help your body prepare for and boost your chances of an optimal pregnancy.
In an effort to curb seasonal influenza, the Hong Kong government has announced that all kindergartens and childcare centres will close starting tomorrow, one week ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday.
Besides getting the flu vaccine, what else can we do to protect our health?
Your immune system protects you from infectious bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that cause disease and even death. “The strength of your immune system is what determines who gets sick and who doesn’t,” explains Woodson Merrell, MD, director of integrative medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. We know that adequate sleep, regular exercise, limiting alcohol consumption and not smoking are essential to good health, but what more can we do to improve our immune system?
1) Elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra) enhances the immune system and studies show that people taking elderberry recover from the flu faster than those who don’t. In one randomised study of 60 adults with flu-like symptoms, those who took 15 mL of the elderberry syrup Sambucol® four times a day saw symptoms clear up on average four days earlier than those who took a placebo (the placebo group also took more painkillers and nasal sprays). Researchers note that it is the extract of elderberry that is effective, not the tea, jam or jelly. Check with a qualified practitioner or doctor for appropriate dosages.
2) Vitamin D supports the immune system. Researchers in Japan have found that besides getting the annual flu shot, vitamin D is also a potent flu-fighter. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial comparing vitamin D3 supplements (1200 IU/day) with placebo in school-aged children, researchers found that the children receiving the sunshine vitamin had a 42% reduction in getting influenza A compared to those not receiving it. The study also found that the group not getting the vitamin D had six times more asthma attacks. “Vitamin D helps your body produce a protein called cathelicidin that fights bacteria and viruses,” says Carlos Camargo, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. In Dr. Yik’s practice, she finds that many adults and children in Hong Kong are deficient in vitamin D, regardless of how much sunshine they get. Before you start taking vitamin D supplements though, get your level checked so you can supplement at the correct dosage. Too much vitamin D puts you at a higher risk for kidney stones.
3) Up to 80% of our immune system lies in our gut, so it makes sense to boost immunity through the gut! Studies show that probiotic supplementation increases T-cell count, which makes you less vulnerable to infections. In a study involving 3- to 5-year-olds, daily probiotic supplementation for 6 months reduced fever, rhinorrhea, cough and antibiotic prescription incidence, as well as the number of missed school days attributable to illness. Different strains of probiotics treat different conditions, so it’s important to find the right type. A supplement with various probiotic strains including a high(er) amount of Lactobacillus rhamnosus is beneficial for boosting immunity.
4) Eat well balanced, wholesome meals- make sure you’re eating adequate protein, good fats and a variety of vegetables and fruits. Include immune-boosting foods such as garlic, onions, ginger, shiitake/ maitake/ reishi mushrooms, green vegetables and berries in your diet. Vitamin C and zinc play important roles in immune defence, so remember to eat foods high in those nutrients.
5) Certain essential oils such as clove and eucalyptus have immune-enhancing properties. Some choose to diffuse it while others use direct or indirect inhalation. For topical use, always read the labels carefully and seek a certified aromatherapist if unsure.
Always remember to wash your hands regularly with soap and avoid touching your face/ nose/ mouth. If you are sick, seek medical attention.
Traveling this holiday season? Or just a frequent flyer? The following tips will help you stay healthy while you are away from home:
1.Probiotics can prevent traveler’s diarrhoea! Many studies show that probiotics are able to effectively prevent traveler’s diarrhoea. The particular formula is a mixture of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum along with the probiotic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii. If you want to protect yourself against digestive and intestinal illness, take a probiotic supplement containing the above strains. Taking a probiotic can also support your immune system and help with regular bowel movements.
2. Keep hydrated by drinking adequate amounts of water throughout your trip. Minimize caffeinated or alcoholic beverages as they are dehydrating.
3. Stock up on antioxidant supplements, glutathione in particular if you are flying. Glutathione is a vital antioxidant involved in protecting the body from free radical damage and helps to “recycle” other important antioxidants. Flying exposes us to more radiation (long-term exposure of which could increase risk of cancers and degenerative diseases) as we are at a higher altitude. A paper from the American Journal of Epidemiology found a higher incidence of acute myeloid leukemia among 2740 Air Canada pilots compared with the general population. The paper concluded that “monitoring of in-flight radiation exposure and long-term follow-up of civil aviation crew members is needed to further assess cancer incidence and leukemia risk in this special occupational group” (Am J Epidemiol 1996;143:137–43). Reduce the harmful effects of radiation (and stress!) while flying by ensuring adequate antioxidant support.
4. Airline “snack boxes” available on shorter flights are usually high in fat and/or sodium and filled with refined carbohydrates. Try to eat a healthier meal before a short flight to avoid hunger on the plane. If you do get hungry, check out #5. Remember to keep hydrated.
5. Healthy snack alternatives you can pack for your flight:
nuts or pre-made trail mix
fresh fruits like apples, oranges, avocado, etc.
carrot or celery sticks
dried or freeze-dried fruit and vegetables e.g. dried mango, okra chips, freeze-dried strawberries, etc.
homemade meat jerky
snack bars such as Larabar, Made Good, etc.
5. For long-haul flights, noodle soup cups are very popular “mini-meals”. Unfortunately, these are laden with MSG and other additives, and carry next-to-zero nutritional value. Usually, flights will offer a veggie sandwich alternative which is a healthier choice. If you must have the noodle soup cups, try to avoid the high-sodium and high-MSG broth.
7. Wear loose clothing and stretch regularly when flying. Stretch your legs/ feet and get up for regular walks to reduce the risk of forming blood clots.
Whether you want to sharpen your memory or prevent cognitive decline, the following tips will help keep your brain healthy and functioning optimally:
Challenge your brain. Work, read, do a crossword puzzle or solve Sudoku. Play bridge or mahjong with a group, or challenge a friend to a game of chess. If you are on your own, try digital puzzle games such as Two Dots or Bubble Game. You can also try memorizing key phone numbers instead of relying on your cell phone all the time.
Get enough sleep! Sleep plays a vital role in brain function and helps you consolidate your memories. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble falling asleep or wake up in the middle of the night, seek a healthcare practitioner who will address the cause and not just give you a quick fix. Sleeping pills can compromise cognitive function. Click here to read more on how to get a good night’s rest.
Exercise regularly. According to Heidi Godman, Executive Editor of Harvard Health Letter, “exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills.” According to a study done at the University of British Columbia, regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Interestingly, resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not yield the same results. “… Engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions,” says Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School. Regular exercise can reduce insulin resistance as well as inflammation, both of which have been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Staying active also improves mood and sleep while reducing stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas commonly cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.
Invest in healthy relationships and stay connected. Look for opportunities to gather with loved ones and friends, especially if you live alone.
Loneliness is tied to an increased risk of developing dementia. In a recent study of 12,030 older adults, the researchers found that loneliness (how lonely one felt, rather than the amount of social contact with others) was associated with a 40% higher risk of developing dementia. A person can be surrounded by people and have many social contacts but still feel lonely.
If you are experiencing memory loss, mental decline or cognitive impairment, find a healthcare practitioner who will work with you in addressing your concerns. According to Dr. Dale Bredesen, professor of neurology at University of California, Los Angeles, Alzheimer’s disease is a result of what happens when the brain tries to protect itself from inflammation (from infection, diet, stress, etc), a shortage or decline of supportive nutrients and hormones and/ or toxic substances such as metals or moulds. He suggests testing for insulin resistance, certain nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, heavy metal toxicity, food sensitivities/ intolerances and genetic status particularly for APO E4*, all of which are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Bredesen believes that by correcting and rebalancing these factors, the cognitive decline of early Alzheimer’s can be prevented and even reversed in some cases. Dr. Ardyce Yik offers such testing in her clinic.
*Genetics may affect your risk for Alzheimer’s disease but it doesn’t mean you will necessarily have the condition. Increasing evidence is showing that environmental and lifestyle factors (i.e. epigenetic changes) can affect whether that gene is turned “on” or “off”. You are in control of your own fate much more than you realize.